It is a small, medium-sized dog breed. It is mostly used for hunting, such as hares, rabbits, among others. With a great sense of smell and superior tracking instinct, the beagle is employed as detection dog for prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in quarantine around the world. The beagle is intelligent but single-minded. It is a popular pet due to its size, good temper, and lack of inherited health problems.
Beagles’ appearance is uncertain, but it is mainly thought that the Romans were the ones who smuggled this dog to England; it was from the Foxhound for, preferentially, hare hunting. It works in packs, usually organized by different institutions, including universities and schools. It is a small, noisy, enthusiastic and vigorous dog, which is always ready for any activity. It is speculated that it is also the result of many crosses between different types of hounds.
It was in the XVI century when the Beagle started being popular in England, and still at the final stages of the XIX century, there were many types of Beagle and the breed was not determined.
The Beagle has a sweet expression, a muscular appearance, and a compact structure. It has long trailing ears in both sides of its head and a short, soft, dense, and resistant coat. Beagles tend to be tricolor and to have a white tail.
They are generally between 31 and 41 cm tall to the withers, and weigh between 8 and 16 kg; females are slightly smaller than males on average.
The head is long and strong; it tends to be more slender in females. The skull is flat, broad and with a slight occipital protuberance. It has a medium-length snout, a square-cut muzzle and a black (or occasionally liver) gumdrop nose. The eyes are large, hazel or brown; they do not tend to be sunken or bulging. The large ears are long, soft and low-set, turning towards the cheeks slightly and rounded at the tips. Beagles have a strong, medium-length neck (which is long enough for them to easily bend to the ground to pick up a scent), with little folding in the skin but some evidence of a dewlap. It has a broad chest narrowing to a tapered abdomen which on its lower part, under the elbows; and arched ribs extended backward. The tail is robust and not very long, covered by fur, especially on its lower part, and tipped with white. The white tip, known as the flag has been selectively bred for, as it allows the dog to be easily seen when its head is down following a scent. The tail does not curl over the back but is held upright when the dog is active.
This breed’s coat has a wide variety of colors. Although the tricolor coat, formed by a white base and black and tan markings, is the most common, Beagles of any usual hound colors are also recognized.
The Beagle is brave, jovial, affectionate and intelligent. It is a hunting dog bred to work in packs (which may have more than one relative) hunting a prey through the countryside. The Beagle is quiet and can easily adapt any lifestyle, both in the city and in the countryside. It is a lively dog, and it tends to be mischievous while it is a puppy. It is kind and guardian; it does not show any aggressiveness or shyness.
These dogs have an excellent behavior with children, and it may be one of the reasons why it is one of the most popular companion dogs for families; but these are pack animals and may be prone to have “separation anxiety”. Not all Beagles howl, but most of them bark when they sense the presence of strangers or are in rare situations, and even some of them will howl while they sense the track of a potential prey.
As they have a short and straight coat, Beagles are easy to clean; the owner must pay special attention to the ears.
Beagles are tireless dogs and, evidently, they need a lot of daily exercise. A Beagle has a great sense of smell and once it does not have its leash on, it can disappear following some track, ignoring its owner’s orders.
The typical longevity of Beagles is 12–15 years, which is a common lifespan for dogs of their size.
Beagles may be prone to epilepsy, but this can often be controlled with medication. Hypothyroidism and a number of types of dwarfism occur in Beagles. Two conditions in particular are unique to the breed: “Funny Puppy”, in which the puppy is slow to develop and eventually develops weak legs, a crooked back and although normally healthy, is prone to a range of illnesses; Hip dysplasia, common in Harriers and in some larger breeds, is rarely considered a problem in Beagles. Beagles are considered a chondrodystrophic breed, meaning that they are prone to types of disk diseases.
In rare cases, Beagles may develop immune mediated polygenic arthritis (where the immune system attacks the joints) even at a young age. The symptoms can sometimes be relieved by steroid treatments.
Their long floppy ears can mean that the inner ear does not receive a substantial air flow or that moist air becomes trapped, and this can lead to ear infections. Beagles may also be affected by a range of eye problems; two common ophthalmic conditions in Beagles are glaucoma and corneal dystrophy. “Cherry eye”, a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid, and distichiasis, a condition in which eyelashes grow into the eye causing irritation, sometimes exist; both these conditions can be corrected with surgery. They can suffer from several types of retinal atrophy.
You can download the FCI (International Cinological Federation) standard at the following link: http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/161g06-en.pdf